Bird watching is so much fun here, since there are so many interesting ones to see. I particularly love the larger birds, because growing up in the north, I never saw these super interesting fowl. The pictures on this page are of the big birds that I have seen and photographed while on my walks in Winter Park!
This page will be a work in progress, as I see more of our big, beautiful birds and personally photograph them, I will add them.
Of course the most famous, (or should I say favored) feathered friend in this Central Florida town is the Peacock. Known collectively as pea fowl, (the males are peacocks and the females are pea hens) they are mostly seen in and around the Windsong neighborhood, becuse their sancutuary is adjacent. As you can see, the male of the species has the most beautiful coloration, the female is a bit less flashy.
The Peacock is the symbol of Winter Park as its image can be seen on buildings, manhole covers, in statues and signage. For more indepth information about our peacocks, click here!
A flock of peacocks is more correctly known as an ostentation of peacocks or a muster of peacocks.
Peacock symbolism and meaning comes up in Christianity as representing the Resurrection; this comes from the fact that after Peacock molts, his feathers grow back to their original grandeur. St. Augustine took this one step further, saying the bird was incorruptible, most likely based on the folk belief that Peacock feathers protect things from deterioration.
Peacocks feature predominantly in medieval portraits of angels where the wings are made from Peacock feathers; this implies that Peacock has associations with the Angelic realm and may actually be a messenger from on high.
The Great Blue Heron
On a recent walk, I spotted this Great Blue Heron just standing guard on a dock on Lake Mizell. The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron native to North America and is often referred to as a crane. He is found throughout North America and in the summer as far north as Alaska and the southern provinces of Canada. But in the winter, like most snow birds, this guy prefers the coastal areas of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America. He can, however tolerate the colder climes better than other migratory birds. They are year round residents of the Southern United States southward and on the lower Pacific Coast.
The blue heron loves all kinds of water from salt to fresh, to marshes, mangroves, flooded meadows and lakes. Pretty much any shoreline will be a great attraction for this birds. Blue herons are solitary creatures, they do not live in flocks, therefore they are said to symbolize self-discovery and independence. This guy was sitting on a dock on Lake Mizell when I happened upon him. Actually I don’t know if it is a male or female, since there is very little difference in their coloration. This bird stands up to 4 and a half feet tall with a wingspan up to 6 and a half feet, which makes him quite spectacular to see in flight.
It is interesting to note that different species of birds when in a group can be called different things other than the commonly known term, “flock”. A flock of herons can also be called a hedge or a seige.
The heron symbolizes stillness and tranquility, and how these two things are needed to recognize opportunities. It also signifies determination,and a sense of independence. When this graceful bird crosses your path, stop and think – just pause. Sometimes that is all we need to do when we are in the middle of a chaotic situation or a difficult decision.
Little Blue Heron – Juvenile
The Little Blue Heron is a much smaller version of the Great Blue. I got a shot of a juvenile Little Blue wading in a pond in Windsong and then he took flight. At first, I thought he was an Ibis, but when I looked closer, I noticed that the beak was all wrong. What made this bird hard for me to identify is he is white with some dark feathers.
The Little Blue, when young, is white and gradually grows the grey-blue feathers over his first year. When he becomes an adult he will be dark blue/grey with maroon neck and head.
This bird stands about 2 feet tall and has a wingspan of 3 and a half feet. He wades in shallow water, dining on small fish, amphibians and reptiles. When young, he can forage with Ibises and egrets, because he looks like them.
The Tricolored Heron is a much smaller version of the Great Blue. This little guys weights in at just about a pound and has a three-foot wingspan. He is fond of quiet shallow water, dining mostly on small fish, but he has been known to eat insects, small amphibians and reptiles.
This is quite a beautiful bird, with slate blue feathers, white belly and orange or grey beak, which turns blue during mating season. The photo on the left makes it appear as if he is black, but if you look closely at him in flight, you will see his beautiful blue feathers.
Although I refer to this particular bird as a male, there is very little difference between the appearance of the males and the females. The females are a bit smaller, however.
The Great Egret (also known as the Snowy Egret)
Plenty of other beautiful big birds live here in Winter Park, enjoying our environment that is replete with lakes, fish and agreeable weather. Winter Park is a perfect nesting spot for the Great Egrets because of the foregoing. When walking around Winter Park, one is likely to run into a spot where you can hear the almost constant sound of hatchlings, with the trees turned into Egret condos.
It is very common to see these birds in neighborhoods near water. Great Egrets which are also called White Herons wade in shallow water (both fresh and salt) to hunt fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They typically stand still and watch for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Then, with startling speed, the egrets strike with a jab of their long neck and bill. They are tall and slender, but not as large as the Great Blue Heron.
About 150 years ago these birds almost became extinct because their beautiful pulmage was a prized element in Ladies’ fashion. It took the efforts of two crusading Boston socialites to finally end the plume trade that all but wiped out the population of these birds. Since then, their colonies have rebounded.
The Egret symbolizes standing in both the physical and spiritual worlds. It encourages us to look deeper into things, to be self-reliant, direct and to the point, with determination and balance, following your own path.
Although the Limpkin looks very much like herons and ibises, he really is more closely related to cranes or rails. This bird loves fresh water where it forages for apple snails. Its long beak is twisted at the end making it particularly suitable for pulling the snail out of its shell, kind of like tweezers. You will always know when Limkins have been near a body of water because they always leave a cache of unbroken snail shells behind. The Limpkin’s diet is almost exclusively apple snails.
They love warm weather and live year-round in Florida, Southeastern Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, the islands of the Caribbean and as far south as Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
The Limpkin has a most distinctive cry that when the males make their countercalls it has been described as “one of the wierdest cacophonies in nature”. It is often called the “crying bird” because its call is mournful and eerie, nonetheless it is considered the “Cry of the Everglades and Florida”.
The Limpkin weighs in at around 2.3 pounds, stands over two feet tall and has a wingspan of 40 to 42 inches. They are named after the way they walk, it appears as if they are limping.
This bird swims under water and flies! He is often seen perched somewhere on a dock or a log with his wings outstreteched, drying them in the sun. He is often referred to as the Snake Bird because when he is in the water with his body submerged with his head and neck sticking out of the water, he looks like a snake.
This great bird weighs about 3 pounds and has a wing span of about 4 feet. His feathers are a beautiful combination of blue, black and white. The Anhinga has the distrinction of having many nicknames! Becase of the black and white strips on the wing tips Anhingas are sometimes called Piano Bird. Other names given him are Darters, Water Crows, American Darters or Water Turkeys.
Anhingas love wet, marshy swamps, rivers and lakes with standing dead trees. This big bird often feeds alone, roosts in groups and nests in colonies. This is definitely a snow bird that spends most of the winter in the south. It loves Mexico, southern Texas and, of course Florida!
These birds are sunning themselves on branches sticking out of the water on Lake Virginia. In one photo, where the bird’s head is sticking out of the water, you can see why he is call “snake bird”. The anhinga has a wingspan of about 3.7 feet and averages about 18 inches in length.
Symbolically, when this bird shows up in your life, it indicates that you shouldn’t allow negative emotions to interfere with your life. Additionally, the Anhinga symbolizes holding one’s head above water. Therefore, if you’ve sighted this bird, it teaches you not to let any adversity overcome you.
Although this duck is not particularly large, he is considered large for a duck, and he has a very interesting face. This bird is native to Mexico, Central and South America, although he, obviously, can be seen in Florida Louisiana, Massachusetts, and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the Big Island of Hawaii, as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada.
The Muscovy is one of the few breeds of ducks that is not derived from the Mallard. They have an average life span of 8-12 years, but if domesticated, can live up to 20 years. Their name comes from the region around Moscow, Russia, although the duck really did not originate from there. So the origin of the name is a bit of a mystery.
This is a non-migratory species of duck which normally inhabits swamps, lakes, streams and nearby grasslands. It often roosts in trees at night. The Muscovy eats plant material, small fish, amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
Symbolically, the message of the Muscovy duck is that of patience, confidence, determination, and compatibility.
Ibises are a group of long-legged birds with long gently downcurved bills. They come in many colors, like black, scarlet red, grey with green wings, grey with an orange face and neck, but the ones seen around Winter park are mainly white or white with black.
Ibises often live in colonies of 300 and share space with herons and spoonbills. As you can see they love to collect in groups, especially while foraging for food. They are monogamous, highly territorial and usually nest in trees. Their long beaks are great for wading in shallow water probing for food, mostly crustateons. The Ibis primarily prefers fresh water. Foraging sites include marshes, mudflats, flooded pastures, lake edges, mangrove lagoons and grassy fields.
Symbolically, when you encounter or become aware of the Ibis, it may mean you have some work ahead. Lessons involving communication, discernment, personal development, and trust are on the horizon.
The Barred Owl
While on a walk in Wind Song, this bird flew onto the street I was walking on. As I drew closer, he flew into a tree. Such a cool bird!
You will know if a Barred Owl is in your neighborhood because he has a distinctive call that sounds like, “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”! He hunts mostly at night and roosts quietly in trees during the day. He is a large bird with a 42 inch wingspan. This species of owl is approximately 11,000 years old and can be found in Florida (obviously) Tennessee and Ontario.
Barred Owls mate for life, the female is the more aggressive of the pair and they are very territorial. They ward off intruders by hooting very loudly. They will nest in nest abandoned by other birds or squrrels and even in nesting boxes that people make for them.
The Barred Owl symbolizes viewing life from a higher perspective and reaching your higher self, and trusting in your own powers of perception.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk
This Hawk is a medium sized raptor with distinctive red coloration on their upper wing, and probably the most common raptor seen in the skies of Florida. They are typically a sign of tall woods and water and are often heard before they are seen, as they are known as the noisiest of the hawks with a shrill screech, especially during mating season. This bird is very fond of living and breeding in Florida and California
This bird often co-exists with the Barred Owl, as their habitats are similar, but their waking hours are different, so they don’t really come into conflict. The Red- Shouldered Hawk likes any kind of meat, including snakes, small birds, mice, insects, and occasionally fish. They typically weigh in at just over a pound and a quarter, they can have a wingspan of just over four feet. The female of the species is slightly larger than the male.
It is generally accepted that the Red-Shouldered hawks made for life and both male and female care for the young and vigorously defend their nests. They are solitary birds that you will rarely see flying together.
I spotted this bird in a tree in Windsong. He is a juvenile, and as yet as not aquired the red feathers for which he is famously named. The colors show up in the bird’s second year. I found the feathers below while on a walk. It came from a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk.
The photo on the left was taken by my friend, who saw this young guy looking in her bedroom window while perching on her balcony railing. Peeping Hawk, perhaps? The one on the right I found while walking. This one is an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk. You can see how his breast feathers have changed to red.
Although I don’t really like to use photos that I haven’t taken, I am including this one of a mature Red-Shouldered Hawk in flight so you can see just how beautiful this bird is.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is seen by the Cherokee as a messenger of vision, that whatever you were thinking about at the time of the sighting is either happening around you or is about to come true.
The red-hawk represents a greater intensity of energy at play within your life and reflects an intensity of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual forces. This bird is the catalyst, stimulating hope and new ideas. It reflects a need to be open to the new or shows you ways that you may help teach others to be open to the new.
The Red Tailed Hawk will often be seen perched on a telephone pole, as you will see in the photo below. From that high perch, he can see a lot and it makes it hard to get an upclose photo. This bird is the most common hawk in the United States. They pretty much have adapted to all kinds of environments, they are even found in cities.
In courtship, male and female soar in high circles, with shrill cries. The Male may fly high and then dive repeatedly in spectacular maneuvers; may catch prey and pass it to the female in flight. This raptor will take small prey to the high perch, but will partially eat larger prey on the ground.
As you can see, the image isn’t ideal, but I was just glad to see this great bird, and catch him in flight!